White House, Democratic Senators Push for DADT Repeal This Year

Lieberman with DADT repeal advocates.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) and several Democratic senators are holding a press conference Thursday morning to "show broad support for repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell in the lame duck session" as part of the National Defense Appropriations Act, according to Lieberman's press secretary Erika Masonhall.

The senators expected to join Lieberman at the press conference are both California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL) (his Republican successor has not yet been certified and sworn in), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD). They may be joined by other senators. Also there will be Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, Aubrey Sarvis, Executive Director, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, J. Alexander Nicholson III, Executive Director, Servicemembers United, and representatives from the Center for American Progress Action Fund and The Third Way.

Masonhall said the senators are expected to call on the Democratic leadership, specifically on Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Carl Levin, chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, "to bring this vote up."

Maasonhall also said she expects Sen. Lieberman to press for the expedited release of the Pentagon's survey on the impact of the repeal of DADT. She noted that Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who's been leading the repeal charge on the other side of the aisle, "feels strongly" that releasing the survey as soon as possible is "good for the process" so the senators can begin the process of having an open debate.

News of the press conference comes on a day when White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told The Advocate that repealing DADT before the end of the year is "a priority" for President Barack Obama.

Earlier in the day, White House spokesperson Shin Inouye released a statement that said:

Today, President Obama called Chairman Levin to reiterate his commitment on keeping the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' in the National Defense Authorization Act, and the need for the Senate to pass this legislation during the lame duck. The President's call follows the outreach over the past week by the White House to dozens of Senators from both sides of the aisle on this issue.

Inouye later said:

Today, Jim Messina, Phil Schiliro, Chris Kang and Brian Bond from the White House, along with stakeholders, met with senior staff from Majority Leader Reid's office to discuss the importance of moving forward with the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act and the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' during the lame duck. The President has also previously conveyed this message directly to Senator Reid.

In September, Republicans refused to vote on a measure that would allow debate on the defense bill with the DADT repeal because, they said, Reid restricted introduction and debate of amendments, against tradition.

Meanwhile, LGBT repeal advocates have been concerned about news reports that Levin was cutting a deal with anti-gay Republican Sen. John McCain to remove the repeal provision in order to pass the defense bill.

The American public seems to be increasingly more comfortable with open service for gays. A CNN poll taken November 11-14 reported that 72 percent of respondents said they favor permitting people who are openly gay or lesbian to serve in the military. Only 23 percent opposed. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Wednesday, which asked different questions, reported that: "Fully 50% of those surveyed said gays should be allowed to serve openly, while 38% said they favor allowing gays to serve under the current "don't ask, don't tell" policy. One in 10 said gays should not be allowed to serve in the military at all."

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